T Nation

Strategy For Better Body Composition

Hi everyone.

I’m 17, have been training for a year and a half, 1.79 cm @ ~ 74 kg

For the last six months, up until July, I had been trying to cut because the first bulk of my training life had gotten me fat.

However, over the last 2 months I’ve increased my caloric intake in order to try and gain muscle, but I ended up gaining quite a bit of fat as well.

I noticed that I put on fat very easily around the whole body, and especially in the waist and abs. If I flex my midsection you can still see a little bit of a 4 pack action going on, but that still looks very soft.

I’m trying to eat following mainly common sense (so little to no junk food, with the bulk of my high gi carbs around the workout) but that apparently isn’t working.
Plus soon after the cut was over I stopped counting my calories, and I’m unsure whether I should start doing it again.

This is even exacerbated by a slight anterior pelvic tilt I’ve always had that makes my stomach stick out even more.

I also have little definition in my arms, shoulders, and chest, and I look a little chubby in my face.

What is your advice guys? Should I go for a body recomp?

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Common sense is good in terms of not eating garbage that might impact your health, but for body comp, the best advice I can give you is to sit down, crunch a few numbers, and honestly see if you’re getting what you need in terms of macro and micronutrients. You can’t really just “wing it”, and then accidentally end up fat, it means you were eating too much, even if you chose healthy selections.

Most people need a very tiny (like seriously tiny) bit of surplus to support the maximum amount of muscle a non-PED assisted human body can create over a week, or even a month. In fact, I’ve seen plenty of folks set up a decent diet plan that has what many would consider maintenance level calories and make muscle gains because they weren’t getting right proper amount of nutrients even though they were getting more than enough calories.



Hi and thank you for your fast reply!

Do you have any suggestions as far as where to start calculating my caloric/macro needs?
I remember reading tons of different articles (both here on tnation and on different websites) and they almost all said slightly different things. Any good set of guidelines to start from?

Also, as far as my current bf situation: do you suggest I fix my diet and continue from that or should I try and lose a few pounds of fat first? Would that hinder my progress as far as building muscle?
I’m in a period where I’m not very positive about my progress and I think I have stagnated a bit.

Also do you think I could benefit from adding a bit of cardio/conditioning to my current training, strictly for body comp purposes?

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at 17 years old i wouldnt count anything, just eat to get big bro ! your testo is at the PEAK age

That’s how I ended up fat the first time round…



so i’ve done as you’d suggested, i went ahead and calculated roughly how many calories i need to bulk.

an online tdee calculator suggested my daily energy expenditure is around 2.4k calories, so i bumped them up to 2.6k with a 40/30/30 composition, which works out to be around 260 g of carbs, 195 g of protein, and 87 g of fat a day.

here’s what a day of eating looks like since i’ve started this plan:

3 eggs
1 cheese slice
3 slices of bacon

mid morning snack (school):
two slices of whole grain bread (40 g) with
1 cheese slice and
30 g peanut butter

2 pork steaks with beets
130 g white rice

mid afternoon snack:
150 g low-fat cottage cheese

100 g white rice
30 g gorgonzola cheese
1 cheese slice
70 g ham

pre-bed snack:
25 g whey protein with whole milk, mixed with
30 g instant chocolate oats

so as you can see i’m trying to eat nutriotious food like rice, meat, and eggs.
other foods that i typically consume but didn’t have today: tuna, lean beef, chicken breast, beans.

the rest of the meals look pretty much the same everyday: i might have a protein shake instead of a peanut butter sandwich as a snack, or maybe i may have rice mixed with tuna and a little bit of low-fat mayonnaise instead of rice and steak.

i wish i was eating more veggies but i’m having troubles finding the time to actually cook them (i pre-cooked all the rice for the week), so if you have any tips regarding this, feel free.
also i don’t usually eat fruit as i like hardly any kind.

i really like cheese, especially gorgonzola and cheese slices, which i put on eggs, rice, and sandwiches. i know cheese is not the most nutritious food out there, but consuming quite a bit of it shouldn’t be a problem as long as i’m meeting my macro goals, right?

also i try not to have processed meat like prosciutto often, but from time to time i will eat it (i consider it a treat, even tho it’s still within the macros). is there any disadvantage to eating ham as opposed to regular meat from a protein quality standpoint? does it really matter?

also, i try not to consume too much bread (i would totally eliminate it from my diet if i could, but it’s just too handy to make a sandwich for school) as i haven’t read good things about it, either here or on other websites. again, does it make a big difference?

so how does this whole plan look to you?

i’m looking forward to any feedback, thank you!

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Honestly, it all looks pretty good (@BrickHead thoughts?). Your calories are well thought out for your goals, your food choices are healthy (avoiding most processed stuff), and you’re being conscious about what you’re doing.

Veggies don’t need to be cooked though. Even just throwing in lettuce (I buy it prewashed in a bag), cucumbers (can carry with you), even pickles (who doesn’t like pickles?!) can add to your daily diet.

I wouldn’t worry about cheese. I’ve become a big fan of just snacking on cheese sticks myself lately when I don’t feel like cooking or preparing a meal or I’m running out the door.



Just wanted to jump in and say that I am impressed with your knowledge and dedication at 17. Coming from a 40 year old dude I would say keep doing what you are doing and keep learning what works for you. It’s a life long pursuit. Even though you will want to have big progress right away, try to remember that you are going to be a machine for the long term. Good work man!


Although I am no physical therapist, I believe most people do not have a neutral pelvis. Some pelvis are more tilted than others and I am most of my mom’s side of the family are anteriorly rotated. Your mid section is not protruding.

How much over maintenance did you increase calories? If you just ate indiscriminately then of course you might have wound up too fat.

Judging from your pictures, I highly doubt you’re some guy with some unique disposition to excess pudginess, and are likely similar to everyone else: you eat too much and you get fat.

On the other hand there are men who get nervous at the slightest increase in softness and have an unrealistic idea of what kind of gains can be made while trying to remain ripped all year round. Most of the best bodybuilders I’ve observed do not get fat in a gaining phase, but they get softer than most people would think

Normal people can’t count calories unduly. I don’t think there has been one bodybuilder besides Dorian Yates who has counted macros and calories day in and day out for years.

You’re not chubby in the face with that sort of body composition. You look good!

Don’t take this the wrong way, but although you seem intelligent and thoughtful, I suspect you’re one of those dudes who is highly concerned with appearance and believes that unless one has sunken cheeks and prominent cheekbones one is chubby.

You’re fairly lean. What is there to recomp if you not headed into a show in the next year?

Stu has it right when he says you don’t need much above maintenance to grow.

Yes, the articles on the net are all over the place, and believe me when I say that many authors have never been ideally stage ready (5-7% body fat) and never looked like a bodybuilder or physique competitor. My advice is to pick one set of guidelines that seem sensible, and adjust from there, or hire a coach who knows what he’s doing and learn his method.

There’s not much to lose if you’re interested in making gains considering you’re already lean, though certainly not shredded.

For whatever reason, you will stagnate here and there, and at other times, if you’re adding everything properly, make seemingly rapid gains. That’s simply how this stuff goes. Also you shouldn’t underestimate how much time it takes to build a head-turning body, nor should you or anyone underestimate how long it takes to get stage ready.

Do you know how long it will take to get the body you want considering you’re seventeen years old? If you do things properly, it will probably take til your early to mid 20’s til everything really starts to pop.

Cardio is good year round, whether leaning out or growing. How much, how intense, and what kind depends on your personal situation and aims.

I am a cheese freak and ate a cheese every single day of my prep for five and a half months!

It actually is one of the most nutritious foods out there!

Exactly! I don’t like seeming like a braggart, but you can see my personal thread in the bodybuilding section and see how ripped I got while having cheese worked in to fit my macros and calories on a daily basis. Don’t buy into the nonsense that dairy and fruit can’t be eaten liberally but within reason!

After boiling water, it takes a grand total of one to three minutes to blanche vegetables like asparagus, cauliflower, and broccoli and then immediately rinse them with very cold water. It takes about five minutes to chop a salad. Other then flipping them around on a barbecue, it takes sitting around for them to grill while you read a book or do something else. Same goes for steaming. If someone has the time to steam rice for 20 to 45 minutes or bake chicken for 30 minutes, they have less than ten minutes to prepare vegetables. And you can prepare them in bulk, as you likely prepare other foods.

There’s nothing wrong with some modest amount of processed meat. I’ve often eaten beef jerky and included it for some of my prep days and my ketogenic peak week method includes processed meat.

I and others, and some of the best pro bodybuilders ever eat or ate bread EVERYDAY, sometimes several times a day! Again when you ready articles you have to pay attention to who is writing some of these articles. Can they actually prove a certain food is “bad”? Do they have a degree in nutrition/dietetics? More importantly, have they ever had to present their findings regarding the badness of a food before academically qualified individuals? Have they ever gotten themselves stage ready? If a food is bad for body composition, then why have others used these foods in leaning and did better than such authors?!

I have yet to see any guru prove how a certain food is bad, specifically fruit, corn, wheat, and dairy being their favorite dietary villains, or show why some men have miraculously won Olympia contests and natural shows

while eating these foods?!

It’s decent.



@jasoninkorea thank you for your positive feedback!

@The_Mighty_Stu, @BrickHead
Thank you both for taking the time to write such thorough and informative replies!

Well, the most success I’ve had since training, I had it in periods where I was tracking calories, whereas once I stopped doing that I mostly just gained fat even thought I thought I was eating properly. I probably need to get better at eyeballing and it should come with experience. Up until them, I don’t find counting calories too big a hassle, so I will keep doing so.

Thank you, and you’re totally right. I don’t really like my face that much so my opinion is biased. However my face tends not to be very defined or “squared”, bone wise (it’s kind of oval), so I thought a little less fat could help with that.

Also thank you for your input about vegetables. I’ll start applying it right away. In your experience, how long do some of the most common veggies (Broccoli, spinach, Beets, etc) last in the fridge once cooked?


Up to a week for cooked vegetables.

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OP pre cook your veggies for the week at the same time as you’re doing your rice. Bag of carrots, couple heads of broccoli, some green beans and anything else you like and you’re good to go. Tomato, cucumber, peppers etc you can just wash, chop and eat as they are.

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Regarding veggies, frozen are great. They are flash frozen right after picking and have full nutrition. Same with frozen fruits. I like cherries and wild blueberries. This keeps you from having to buy veggies 2-3 times a week. Also I will take a box of arugula or kale and throw in apple, strawberries, watermelon, pear, orange, maybe some real bacon bits, cheese, a few chopped nuts, 1-2 tbs of olive oil and 2-3 vinegar. I may split it over 2 days.

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I agree with @mertdawg – Hell, I’ll even just put frozen broccoli or peas right in my tupperware with the chicken and rice and then just let it thaw in the fridge and then it’s good to go after I microwave my meal.

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